The family of 17-year-old Ariana Rae Delfs, who died Monday from complications arising from mononucleosis, has started a GoFundMe fundraiser in her memory.
Delfs grew up in Malta and was attending Ballston Spa Middle School when her family decided to move to Fernandina Beach near Jacksonville, Fla.
Her father, Mark H. Delfs, posted about his daughter's tragic death on Facebook Dec. 9.
"It is with great shock and sorrow that we have to announce the tragic unexpected passing of one of the 3 shining lights in our lives, Ariana Rae Delfs," Delfs wrote. "Ariana passed on peacefully after a short and unexpected illness. We wanted everyone to know that she fought as bravely as she could in this tragic fight. Being the generous soul that she was, Ariana decided recently in life to become an organ donor and she will now be touching lives far beyond her own."
Mark Delfs explained to the website Prevention.com how his daughter began exhibiting cold like symptoms about three weeks ago. Even though her family ended up taking her to several doctors, they were unable to diagnose exactly what was wrong with her.
“One evening, not too long ago, she started throwing up just constantly. We got very nervous, so the next morning at 7 a.m. we said we’re going to take her to the hospital,” Delfs told Prevention.com. "She got up to go to the bathroom. All of a sudden she couldn’t feel part of her legs, and she felt like her legs were just giving out.”
When she was hospitalized doctors diagnosed her with mononucleosis, often called mono, which is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, commonly spread through saliva, as well as other bodily fluids. While the disease is rarely fatal, about 1 percent of cases can result in encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, and that's what was happening to Ariana Rae Delfs.
The typical symptoms of mono include extreme fatigue, body aches and a rash. Brain swelling can include facial palsy and issues with balance.
The Delfs family has started the Ariana Rae Delfs Legacy Fund on GoFundMe. While its original fundraising goal was $1,000, as of Saturday night, it had received $17,540.
GoFundMe: The Ariana Rae Delfs Legacy Fund
Delfs has written messages on the site thanking people for their donations and explaining what the family plans to do with the money.
"Ariana was a gifted self-taught musician, artist and scholar-athlete attending Fernandina Beach High School in Florida," he wrote. "This legacy fund will be used to help fund some of her passions, including music and arts programs for children, helping animals and making the world a better place."
A local candlelight vigil in Malta to honor and remember Ariana Delfs is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, at Malta Presbyterian Church, 118 Dunning St., Malta.